Monday, March 26, 2012

Summertime Quilt

Ah, spring. The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing...and I? I'm panicking. What causes this particular brand of March madness, you ask? Basketball? Nah, not interested. Taxes? Nope, done already thank you. School? No way - it's almost over. Wait. School's almost over? There it is. There's the rub.

Every year about this time, our thoughts turn to summer. Spending time on the beach, grilling out with friends, maybe even going on vacation - all this and more are the things we think of when we think of summer. What we also think of is what we're going to do with our children. I have a job outside the home, and my employer would probably frown on me being off for eleven weeks, even if I could afford the time off. My husband's boss would probably feel the same way.

This brings us to summertime child care, which, as those of you have to arrange it know, will bring you to your knees logistically, financially and mentally. Every single summer, I thank all that is holy that we have two sets of grandparents here in town who are both willing and able to help us out because I have zero idea how we'd make it through the summer months without them. I mean, my income doesn't increase in the summer but without the support of our families, our childcare expense would increase by 250%. Two. Hundred. And fifty percent. This is not an exaggeration on my part in the least.

What generally happens is that we alternate between our parents, some time off ourselves and some day camp/vacation Bible school time. The result is what I like to call "The Quilt". This is the visual I get - all the different people and places, sewn together.  The planning involved with this quilt is fairly enormous. And stressful. The implementation of this planning gets the job done, but it's hard on everyone involved. The kids get dragged all over, they get thoroughly tired of each other and they get lonely for their friends. The adults get worn out from entertaining and transporting the kids, and by the end of the summer we're all kinda fried.

Again, I can't imagine what we would do without the help of our families, but what I'd like to know is how people without this net do it. I started writing this post thinking it would be kind of humorous, but to be honest, the more I write, the more I am bringing myself down about it. So, I guess I'll ask you guys - what do those of you who work during the summer do with your kids? Is it difficult for you too?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Do You Support Women's Sports? I Haven't And That Need To Change.

For those of my readers who do not know, I actually have two blogs. The "mommy blog” is Connelly Confusion, and the sports blog is Gameday Goodness. GG has been terribly neglected since November but those of you in the blogosphere know how that can go.

Baseball season has arrived though, and I love baseball. The Gamecocks and Cougars are doing pretty well so far, and it’s awesome to see such great attendance for the games. My daughter has begun her softball season and so we’ve got cleats, bats, helmets, etc., strewn all around the house. It’s hard not to get into the spirit of the spring.

I skipped out of March Madness this year, because I really just haven’t been feeling it. Like I said, I’ve paid so little attention, it would be a total crapshoot anyway, so instead of throwing good money away, I just stayed focused on baseball.

I knew somewhere in the back of my head that the Lady Gamecocks had an excellent season, but had paid them no mind either. I actually had no idea until yesterday that they were playing Purdue for a spot in the Sweet 16, or had set a team points record in the game that got them to the field of 32. Anyway, as a fan of the school, I figured I should just check it out.

Y’all. Let me tell you. That game was fantastic. The very outsized Gamecocks had total and complete control of that game from start to finish. The pressure these women applied on defense was outstanding. The shooting was excellent and the scrappy, never say die, don’t give them an inch style of play did not let up even once. At one point during the game, I said to my husband, “If women’s sports were always this good, I’d probably watch more of them. You know, if there were more than fifty people there and this level of play.” Mental pause. To self: WHAAAAT???!!!

I couldn’t believe I said that. It’s not the Lady Gamecock’s fault that typically their turnout isn’t the same as the men’s. They are an outstanding team. Way more successful than the men’s team, actually. It isn’t the school’s fault either – the women’s basketball team is promoted too. Whose fault is it, you ask? It’s mine. And yours. And everyone else like us who doesn’t pay any attention to women’s sports.

After hearing those ridiculous words come out of my mouth, I began thinking back to the last time I watched a women’s team in person, other than my daughter’s. I had to go back to college, which was longer ago than I’d care to admit. Why did I go? I worked for the athletic department – I had to be there. I have a distinct memory of being at a CofC Lady Cougars softball game, and no one being there but the team, the school employees, and maybe a few family members, friends. Less than twenty people were in the stands. They were good too and no one knew, or cared, as far as I can recall.

My children have been to several collegiate sporting events. Were any of them the women’s teams? Nope. As a parent of a girl, I’m ashamed of myself. She plays softball, and I took her to see baseball. She played soccer and I took her to see football. As the parent of a boy, I’m ashamed of myself. Is his sport more important than his sister’s? I know I’m going further with this than the reality, but I’m trying to make a point. If I am the gender equality mom that I think I am, my daughter deserves to be exposed to sports played by people of her own gender, or what message does that send to her? My son needs to know that the women who play these sports are just as athletic, hardworking and talented as the men, or what message does that send to him?

I hope to change this, sooner rather than later. There are tons of opportunities locally to see collegiate women’s sports, and yours truly is definitely going to go buy tickets. For all of us.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Even MORE Proof Of The Aforestated Cosmic Curse Theory

As a person with some perfectionist tendencies, I often fall victim to the reality of a situation not living up to the fantasy in my head. No matter that the mental image is improbable, if not impossible - the perfectly, perfect experience should be had at all costs. This is no more exasperating than when I'm trying to get our family on some outing where we Bond! and Have Fun! and Make Memories!

The truth is, having kids is kind of a wild card - you never know what may happen, despite your best laid plan and well intended efforts. But as much as I'd like to point at my children for this recurring phenomenon, it really is just more a case of cosmic weirdness. I believe the universe does not appreciate us trying to control our own experiences and so, ever so gently, begins to mess with us in order to show it's dominance. Yes, I really think this - if you know me in real life, you will totally understand what I'm getting at. See this post for reference: Zumba Class

Today was a prime example of this theory. Yesterday was absolutely beautiful - a warm spring day, not a cloud in the sky. Birds were singing, butterflies were flitting around, neighbors were cutting grass - truly idyllic. We stayed home though, doing a few chores, resting, hanging around for the most part, kinda just needing to take it easy. Got some laundry done, some household bidness handled. Everything was fine.

This morning, however, we decided it would be nice to get out and about in order to enjoy this gorgeous weekend. Same as yesterday, not a cloud in the sky, singing birds, etc. We decided that Hampton Park would be our destination - large, great for picnics, playing catch, chasing squirrels (the dog, not the children) and not a long ride. Sounds great, right? I mean, look at this place - it's post card worthy!

Well it was. Until we got there and began looking for a picnic table, of which there are plenty. Firstly, my husband parked as far away as possible from the area I wanted to set up in, but no matter. Headed towards another cluster of tables only to be thwarted by a large group of people with at least eleven dogs between them. Head towards another table which looked just right and upon our approach realized that some sketchy looking peeps had snagged it. Finally settled on another location, sat down and ate our lunch. My mounting frustration eased, as we all enjoyed a delicious meal while sitting among beautiful blooming trees and shrubs, watching our little dog chase squirrels to her heart's content.

Then we decide to put some stuff back in the truck. Due to a communication problem between my husband and I, all four of us ended up walking back to the parking spot and then back to the picnic spot, all the while carrying our goods, which were getting heavy to be honest. Finally get re-settled, kids are running, playing, relaxing and KAAA-BOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!! Thunder. However, it seemed distant, so we carried on...for about three minutes until both children announced they needed to use the restroom. So we walked back across the park to the restroom, which was not only a hike, but also included a super creepy escort by one of the local sketchballs who had snagged our picnic table.

This part was especially awesome - if you want to see a totally average WASP go from Anglo to Saxon, follow her and her children around a park. Dude almost got a camera upside the head. Anyway, after forcing Will into the ladies room with me and Cecilia, we beat a hasty exit back to our spot where Lawton was waiting. Actually, he had decided that we need to move again to be closer to one of the shelters if it decided to really rain. Got resettled, began throwing a ball around while Will began climbing a tree, and lo and behold, here comes my stalker again. I almost screamed, more out of frustration than anything else.

Here is where it got super weird. Of course it starts raining so we skedaddle for the shelter that Lawton has picked out for us, only realize that is being occupied by two guys practicing some kind of martial art (Krav Magda maybe?) while playing the absolute weirdest music I've ever heard. So it's us, the two fighter guys and their crazy tunes, three neighborhood kids on bikes and a homeless guy, all chillin' in the pavilion. (You liked that, I know you did.) We hang there for a few really awkward moments, and Lawton decides we just need to head for the truck to leave.

Up until this point the rain was light - fat drops but not pouring. When we get about 100 feet out from the shelter, it begins to rain in earnest. Lightning, thunder, wind - the whole deal. The kids and I run for it, leaving my poor husband and the dog to bring up the rear. We beat a hasty exit out of downtown because while my beloved hometown of Charleston is absolutely gorgeous, she was also built on a swamp, and heavy sudden rain can mean terrible flooding, especially if the tide is right. The kids were wet and kinda bummed out, so I suggested ice cream.

We proceeded to Cold Stone, picked up the ice cream to go, came home and have been watching Planet Earth DVDs ever since. Cecilia is playing on the computer, Will is laying on the sofa learning about the jungle and Lawton and the dog are snoring on the floor. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why we even bother leaving the house.

Am I alone? Please tell me this happens to other people. Share your best laid plans gone awry stories with me - misery loves company!

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Bike, With A Baguette In The Basket

Ever see that used to be sorta pretty woman walking through a store at 6somethingPM, obviously still in her sort of decent if you don't look close enough work clothes, dragging two squabbling and bedraggled children along behind her, all the while looking like she could lay on the dirty floor and go to sleep? Well, if you do, please be sure to say hi. Yes, to me. I'm friendly, most of the time anyway.

There have been a zillion words written about the balance of work and mothering, so I'm pretty sure nothing I can come up with will be all that original, but y'all, sometimes it is just so damn hard. I know being a stay at home mom has its share of challenges too, but this is my blog, and I feel like doing some serious whining about being a working out of the home mom. The never ending to-do list never ends for anyone, but I swear, having an extra seven hours a day to work on it seems like it sure would help.

Currently there is the endless housework, three dentist appointments, two dermatology appointments, two vet visits, purchasing softball cleats, play dates, dry cleaning, grocery shopping, softball practice, pharmacy pick up, pediatrician, dinner to make and bills to pay, just to get us started. Not to mention actually parenting and connecting with the kids, helping them with homework, signing all the different papers, project checklists, writing endless checks, chasing them through their bedtime routines and preparing for the next day. And somehow there is also supposed to be an hour a day spent on fitness, some "me" time and "romantic time" with my husband. All in a measly 24 hours which is also supposed to include 8-10 hours of sleep and 8 hours of work.

                                                            I. Cannot. Do. It. I just...can't.

The constant juggling makes me insane. So much just doesn't get done, or gets put off because oh, I don't know, I've already missed work for half a day this week already doing something else and that's probably enough for now. And for someone whose standards are pretty high, this does not happy times make. What happens when I can't do something well is that I will not do it at all. Right now I'm sitting in my plaid chair, writing this post and totally ignoring the fact that there are piles of laundry everywhere, that my kitchen is rocking a mystery odor and that Lawton and the kids will be home in 30, no, 10 minutes and I have not even thought about dinner.

I know lots of people deal with this challenge and much worse, so I'm not saying I'm special, but in the words of a close friend, sometimes "I just want to ride a bicycle around all day. You know, the old cute one with a basket on the front holding a baguette." Don't even pretend you couldn't instantly relate. I know exactly what she means. Cruising along, looking adorable, not a care in the world other than deciding where to park your firm and perky butt to enjoy your fresh baked bread that wouldn't dream of going straight to your hips. Choosing the best scenic vista would be your only worry, and it wouldn't hang around long enough to add to those lines between your eyebrows.

What really scares me is that the women who I think have it somewhat together say the same thing. I look at them and think that they must be giants of organization, energy, patience and stamina, and then they tell me they feel the same way.  Which I cannot decide if I find encouraging or discouraging. Sometimes it just seems like such a losing battle and in the throws of my worst pity parties I wonder how long it takes before you just don't care anymore.

It's not always like this, and there are tons of good things, good times, and loving/supportive people in my life. Which is great, because even though I have a blue Trek complete with basket, it's not doing anything other than sitting in my garage at the moment and there is not a baguette in sight.

Okay, enough whining. Back to the list before it gets any longer...

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Monday, March 12, 2012

That Farm Gene Might Have Skipped A Generation. Or Two.

 When I was little, probably about 8 or 9, we made the long trip from Charleston, SC to my grandparents house in Ardmore, TN. What? Never heard of it? I'm shocked.

From Wikipedia: "Ardmore is a city in Giles and Lincoln counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee. The population was 1,213 at the 2010 census."  This farming community is where my grandparents retired to after having lived near Augusta, GA for most of my grandfather's career in the auto industry, and it is also where he was from originally. As an interesting aside, the state line between Tennessee and Alabama runs right through the center of town, which is why there is an Ardmore, Alabama as well.

My grandparents always had an enormous garden and that is no exaggeration. It was huge. I remember vividly how surprised I was by the difference in their soil compared to the sandy loom of where I came from on the coast of South Carolina. Black as night, rich with nutrients and gorgeous. You could look out past the garden and see crops planted as far as the eye could see. The green fields just seemed to evaporate into the blue sky somewhere near the edge of the earth. There was a dairy farm not far down the road as well.

When I think about how far removed I am from this kind of life, it really is odd in some ways. My grandfather came from a line of Tennessee farmers that goes back at least a couple of hundred years. Yet here I sit, only two generations later, living in the suburbs, driving the eight miles into downtown Charleston to wander around the farmer's market on the occasional Saturday morning. I try to buy local food and support local agriculture but I find the effort to do so frustrating.

Two summers ago, I tried to grow tomatoes and bell peppers. Total, complete failure. Everything died. And by everything, I mean all of it. We got nothing. Last summer I didn't even bother. This summer I'm going to try again. Just being able to enjoy my own homegrown tomatoes would make me really happy and is something I'd like for my children to do also.

Interestingly enough, just last week I got an email asking me to participate in a panel about blogging and food. The hosts are a group of professionals who promote agriculture and farming. Honestly, I'm so excited. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to talk about food, especially from a local perspective. Where it comes from, how we get it, what makes it good, what makes it bad, how it affects us, and so on, are subjects of great interest to me. As ridiculous as it sounds, I swear my DNA is largely responsible for this obsession.

I wish I knew more. I wish I had a huge garden like my grandfather did. I wish that it was easier to buy from the local farmers around Charleston. But all I can do is try to learn, make a little extra effort regarding food purchases and try my little garden again. Wish me luck...

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Trouble Don't Know The Day

Recently, my extremely healthy and capable father in law fell seriously ill. I'm thrilled to report that after a week in the hospital, he appears to be making a complete recovery and is not expected to suffer any long term effects. While this has been trying and stressful for everyone involved, it has also been a good experience in a lot of ways as well.

I've come up with a random collection of observations from the past week and thought they might be relevant to pretty much, well, everyone.

Trouble don't know the day - my husband's grandfather always had a saying for everything, as all good southern gentlemen do, and this one serves as a reminder that life has a way of sneaking up on us when we least expect it. No one had a clue that a little over a week ago from today, this healthy, fit and whip-smart guy would be sick as a dog and no idea where he was. This setback has reminded me once again not to take life and health for granted, and as trite as it sounds, to live in the moment, and not for the future or past. A reality check, if you will.

Laughter really is good medicine - there have been lots of hours logged at the hospital this week by all of us, but especially by Lawton, Scott and their mom. Visitors have come in regularly. Yes, there have been tears, but more than that there has been laughter. Stories, jokes, and just plain silly behavior has been the constant thread through the whole ordeal. I'm so thankful for that - having moments that lift the mood goes such a long way for morale. I am not sure what kind of effect that may have had on my FIL, but I can promise you that it did all of us a world of good.

There's no man like a family man - when I looked around the room at all the people who care for this man, I was reminded how not everyone has that kind of love and support. That there are people who linger in hospitals with no one to come sit with them and hold their hands. That having those kinds of people in your life is an amazing blessing, and those people should be always loved and appreciated accordingly. My father in law has set such an outstanding example for his sons, and I can honestly say that I have been so impressed with my own husband as he looked out for his dad, and mom as well. He and his brother have truly been amazing, and I'm so proud of them both.

This week has been scary. And hard. But to be honest, I am so thankful for it. Being reminded of some of the most important things in life was good for me, and while I know this is taking liberty with the thoughts of others, probably good for everyone involved. The overwhelming amount of love and devotion is amazing, and I am blessed to call these guys my family.

You're the best, Pops. Glad to have you back.
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